BY: VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Stakeholders and Natural Rubber Farmers and Processors in the country, have called on the federal government to set aside intervention funds for the development of rubber plantations, rubber processing and manufacturing.
The call was made in Calabar at the end of its meeting to chart the way forward for the natural resource described as irreplaceable and a goldmine that can compliment crude oil.
The newly elected national president of National Rubber Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NARPPMAN), Mr Peter Igbinosun, and the General manager of Royal International Farms and Estates limited, Mr Usen Umoh, made the call when they spoke to journalists in Calabar.
Igbinosun said the intervention fund should attract an interest rate of 3% to 5% per annum with a moratorium period of 3 to 4 years considering the gestation period of the rubber trees which is six years with good agronomic practices.
He recommended that the repayment period should spread over 10 to 15 years.
The President called for the selection of a development bank to handle the processing and disbursement of the intervention fund.
As a way of easing the challenges faced by natural rubber farmers and processors, he advocated the establishment of an agency for bulk purchase of machinery/equipment agency, saying it will facilitate the acquisition of tractors, implements, land development machineries and equipment.
He added that the rural development policies of the Federal, State and Local Governments should be integrated to farm plantations in order to create the necessary infrastructures such as roads, bridges, electricity and water.
Igbinosun enumerated that the county will benefit greatly if the rubber subsector which has been long neglected, is well positioned although it is a capital and labour intensive industry.
“Rubber, grown in 24 states of Nigeria, including Kaduna, Taraba, Kwara, Adamawa, etc as well as southwest and South-South states, has the capacity to create wealth; enhance non-oil sector foreign exchange earnings and can also greatly reduce crime and youth militancy.
“There are array of other benefits from natural rubber. Planting rubber trees generate carbon pits and fit with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto protocol. A 30 years old rubber plantation mobilizes 200 tons of C/Ha.
“Rubber is in high demand all over the world, plays a major role as a foreign exchange earner and contributor to the growth of our national economy. Natural rubber is a strategic material as it cannot be replaced in many important applications.”
According to him, there are over 50 by-products of rubber cutting across all major sectors of the economy, disclosing, too that it used for manufacturing of consume, hand-gloves, PPE uses in fighting COVID19.
He listed some of these to include Natural rubber latex products such as Adhesives, Mattresses, pillows, Seat cushions, Car seats, Baby feeding bottle teats, Condoms, Surgical, domestic and industrial gloves, Balloons, balls, rain boots, Rubber bands, catheters, carpet underlay, Paints, Liquefied Natural Rubber (LNR) such as adhesives amongst others.
To reduce unemployment, he said the subsector can employ 640,000 people directly and 160,000 indirectly as service providers, adding that they have 200,000 hectares of rubber plantation in Nigeria both small holders and industrial plantations.
Speaking also, Usen Umoh said rubber farmers face increasing challenges and would need medium and long term facilities.
Umoh said high cost of credit to finance private rubber plantation development is the bane.
“There is also the high cost of inputs, labour and processing mostly due to the current energy crisis / uncontrolled hike in the price of petroleum products. We can also add that poor exploitation practices are also our bane.
“Surviving rubber trees are exploited by untrained and greedy tappers by employing damaging tapping techniques such as slaughter tapping resulting in rubber tree deaths.
“There is also the long gestation period of 5-7 years for rubber which serves as a disincentive to smallholders and investors in the commodity. Obtaining short and low interest loans from the banks for the crop most times is a mirage. There is difficulty in accessing land for cultivation because of land tenure system.”